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The Diversity of Diversity: business benefits powered by personal experience

Traditionally, diversity has been framed as a picture, a snapshot of physical differences. However, as business leaders it is vital to understand – and embrace – that diversity is not just skin-deep. It is about the richness of experiences, the variety of perspectives, and the unique insights that come from living a life unlike any other.

The diversity of diversity, a concept as layered as it is critical, compels us to look beyond what we look like and consider who we are at our core – our backgrounds, cultures, and the myriad life paths that have shaped our thinking. In the business world, such rich human tapestry isn’t just an ethical choice; it is a strategic imperative.

Diversity seen only in terms of blunt demographic details sells the concept short. Pragmatically, we know that teams that are diverse in age, socioeconomic background, education, and even leisure interests bring more creative solutions and alternative viewpoints, fostering innovation that can drive a company forward. These variegated views are pools of untapped potential that, when leveraged, can differentiate firms, granting them the edge needed in competitive markets.

I need only look across the AlixPartners office that I lead in Paris to see validation of our firm’s concerted efforts to attract the broadest range of experience to enhance the outcomes we deliver for our clients.

Erik Lautier, a Partner in our Performance and Technology practice, began his career on stage. Leading roles in Broadway touring shows, opera, and TV are not the readily assumed route into consulting… 

However, through his own innovation and personal transformation, Erik identified a digital business need in the industry he had long performed in, transitioning to web development, e-commerce, and ultimately C-suite leadership at two publicly traded companies. 

Since joining our firm in 2021, he has told us that working here often reminds him of his career on stage: short projects, new and varied subjects, small teams, different protagonists, the occasional late night... but always with a focus on action and creating immediate impact. The parallels don't stop there: as an artist, he spent years learning how to communicate authentically, how to read an audience, the power of voice and movement, and the power of silence and stillness. What better training than this if you want to influence a board of directors, a client, or a colleague?

As Erik and many other colleagues exemplify, variety in life experiences can translate into a deeper understanding of client needs and market movements. This is not mere speculation, nor a survey of one individual alone; numerous studies have indicated that companies with higher levels of diversity report greater rates of innovation and higher financial returns. The need for greater diversity and inclusion is not only moral but is also linked increasingly to commercial performance.

Being action-oriented, we integrate this understanding of diversity into the very fabric of our firm. Our global leadership team is passionate about cultivating an environment where every employee can contribute a distillation of their life’s narrative to the collective strategy. It is here, in personal heritage, that novel ideas simmer to the surface contributing to better business outcomes.

As leaders, acknowledging "the diversity of diversity" should come as naturally as our entrepreneurial instincts. These powerhouses of lived experiences are not just footnotes; they are foundational to the construction of organisations that are resilient, dynamic, and empathetic. In essence, they are our pathway to a more enlightened and effective form of business practice.

As we cultivate this broader spectrum of diversity within our ranks, we also bind ourselves more closely to the world around us – a world that is animated by difference and powered by variety. Our clients come from this world and our teams should reflect it. 

It is not just idealistic; it is just good business.

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